TAIPEI – Taiwan Foreign Minister David Lin said Tuesday that he hopes a law enforcement agreement with the Philippines in the contested areas of the South China Sea will be concluded “in the near future.”
“Both sides have agreed on the wording of the agreement which should be signed very soon, in the near future,” Lin told reporters during the break of an international symposium in Taipei.
Taipei and Manila reached an agreement in the wake of a fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine Coast Guard personnel in May 2013. The incident triggered a bilateral crisis and led Taipei to impose sanctions on Manila and demand corrective actions.
Since then, the two sides have established an emergency hotline to notify each other in the event of fishery disputes or incidents.
Manila has also agreed to have its coast guard personnel avoid the use of force against Taiwanese fishermen in disputed waters and to follow procedures in accordance with international maritime law when detaining such vessels.
However, two years after both sides reached the consensus, the agreement is yet to be signed.
Nevertheless, Taipei officials were quick to point out that both sides have already begun implementing the consensus on cooperation in law enforcement in the disputed waters.
Speaking at the same symposium, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou did not seem to mind that the agreement has not yet been signed, citing two examples of recent incidents in the contested waters.
One incident involved a Taiwanese fishing boat detained by the Philippine Coast Guard earlier this month after they were accused of illegal fishing in the contested waters. The boat was later released and fined.
The other incident occurred Monday when the armed Philippine Coast Guard personnel boarded a Taiwanese fishing vessel in waters of the overlapping economic zones. The vessel was released three hours later.
“So you can see, these cases showed that the consensus reached on law enforcement did work,” Ma said, adding that no force was used, there was advance notice before the enforcement action was taken and the crew and boats were released promptly.